Australia has won the first rugby sevens gold medal at an Olympic event after its junior women’s team defeated Canada at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
Australia’s history-making Youth Olympic rugby sevens champions already have an eye on competing in the sport’s senior debut at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Queensland flyer Dominique Du Toit, 17, scored a hat-trick of tries as the unbeaten Australians defeated a physical Canada 38-10 in the final in Nanjing, China on Wednesday to claim the first rugby sevens gold medal contested in the Olympic movement.
Co-captain Tiana Penitani typified their spirit as she got back up from an awkward tackle and yellow card to help her team to a further 26 points.
“I just had to suck it up and get back up to fight to the finish with the girls,” Penitani said.
“No one’s attitude dropped and that’s the Aussie spirit.”
The 18-year-old said it was an emotional victory for the team.
“We knew we were just about to make history, whether it was silver or gold, but we were just so hungry for that gold.”
For co-captains Penitani and Brooke Anderson – both members of the senior national team – the medal was reward for their return to competition after each was sidelined for months by a knee injury.
“Big ups to Canada, they were the hardest opponent and very physical,” said Anderson.
Anderson said the team already had their sights on competing at the Rio Olympic Games in two years.
“There’s a lot of potential on this team. I’m pretty sure if we all keep working really hard, we have a chance of getting to Rio.”
Penitani was confident their success in Nanjing will help lift the sport in Australia, and their coach, former Wallaby Scott Bowen agreed.
“A gold medal in Youth Olympics is great for them, great for rugby and the sevens program,” Bowen said.